Korea sends task force to investigate crash

SEOUL - The government sent a task force composed of about 20 officials from the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport and Asiana Airlines to San Francisco on Sunday to investigate the cause of the crash-landing of the airliner's Boeing 777-200ER and to develop measures to deal with the aftermath.

"No exact cause of the crash has been determined, but US officials have ruled out terrorism from the beginning,'' Choi Jeong-ho, the head of the ministry's aviation policy bureau, said in a media briefing.

"The two pilots, who are reportedly alive without severe injuries, are out of reach as they are under investigation by the US authorities," he added.

Asiana Airlines officials work at the company's emergency room in western Seoul on Sunday after its plane crash landed at San Francisco Airport. (Ahn Hoon/The Korea Herald)

The dispatched Korean investigation team, consisting of experts from such fields as aircraft maintenance and accident investigation and compensation, will work with the US National Transportation Safety Board for a thorough investigation into the incident and develop follow-up measures. Officials from Boeing, the US aircraft maker, and Asiana also joined the Korea-US joint-investigation team.

Under the Chicago Convention on International Civil Aviation, the authority of a country where an aircraft accident occurs leads the investigation.

Separate from the Transport Ministry, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs set up another task force in the US to take care of Korean passengers involved in the accident. The task force, led by the consul general in San Francisco, was dispatched mostly to hospitals near the airport to identify Korean passengers and to know how many Koreans are dead or injured.

The Korean Embassy in Washington has been assured of the US government's support in dealing with the aftermath of the crash. Sung Kim, the US ambassador to Seoul, has told the foreign ministry that the US will facilitate trips by families of the Asiana passengers as necessary.

San Francisco fire and airport officials at 3 p.m. on Sunday (Seoul time) said two Chinese passengers died among 307 people on board the Asiana flight, and 183 people were injured. However, the death toll could rise as dozens of patients were reportedly critically injured.